Friday, June 24, 2011

Breaking Needles While Free Motion Quilting

I'm learning to free motion quilt. Of all the quilts I have made in the past, I have quilted by checkbook - I paid someone to quilt my quilts on a long arm machine. Nice, but I never really felt like I could say I made the quilt without actually quilting it. So I'm setting out to learn to free motion quilt. Kind of like doodling with a sewing machine. I really like doing it, but I've hit a few "speed bumps" along the way.

Let me digress a little and tell you a little bit about my sewing machines. Last September, I inherited two beautiful Babylock machines (Ellegante and Esante) from my mom. My mom was and avid quilter and embroiderer, but she also quilted by check. Both of these machines replaced my little Kenmore that I bought at a garage sale 20 years ago. Quite a step up!

I have learned to embroider and machine piece quilts, but free motion quilting is proving to be a challenge with these machines.

The Babylock Esante is a bit counter-intuitive to use it for free-motion quilting. Some of the first rules you learn: 1. drop feed dogs, 2. set stitch length to zero, 3. don't be afraid to go slow. 4. Shouldn't have to adjust the tension (from auto tension). As I started, I would break needles within the first inch or two of stitching. I adjusted the tension, both up and down, still broke needles. I went through over half a dozen needles. I scoured the Internet and found one obscure reference ( to the Esante free motion quilting: drop the feed dogs, set to maximum stitch length, turn speed all the way up, turn tension all the way down. Worked like a charm!

The Babylock Ellegante is a free-motion story for next time! (Hint: All about bobbins)

Well, I guess I will end here. I hope that this helps someone else who is struggling!

Happy sewing!



  1. Christine MurphyJune 5, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Hi Pat! I am having a heck of a time figuring out how exactly to lower the feed dogs on my Esante! It is the very first model released, ie its a dinosaur, and I no longer want to 'quilt by checkbook', either. (I love that term, btw!)
    Anyway, can you shed some light on how you lowered the feed dogs on your Esante?

    1. Christine, you are a no-reply blogger. If you give me your address, I will help you out. Or you can email me directly at